The shooter at the Fort Lauderdale airport didn’t face the prospect of encountering a lawful firearms carrier when he started his rampage. Excepting the police, of course. Who arrived too late to save five innocent passengers. Florida does not allow lawful carry of firearms in their airports’ common terminal and baggage claim areas. Forty-four states do. Ish.

Many of these states (e.g., California, New Jersey) make it extremely difficult if not impossible to get a license to carry a concealed firearm. And many others (e.g., Arkansas, Mississippi) prohibit firearms in “sterile areas” — which they deem to be inside of any passenger terminal. Some states (e.g., Massachusetts) allow cased, unloaded firearms in common areas.

Some states give airports leeway to post signs prohibiting firearms in specific buildings. And some states only prohibit lawfully carried firearms past security checkpoints. You’re good to stow — without fear or favor — in Texas and Wyoming airports.

So carrying in airports is perfectly legal — except where it isn’t. And “carrying” might not mean accessible. Click here for a state-by-state breakdown. Note: I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this info. What’s the situation where you live?

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36 Responses to 44 States Do NOT Ban Lawful Firearms Carry at Airport Baggage Claim. Or Do They?

    • I do not have vast experience, but twice when visiting Arizona, I purchased a firearm and returned to Michigan with it in my checked baggage. If I remember correctly, the carrier was Continental, and after arrival my name was called to report to the ticket counter. There we were given all of our baggage, including the locked and TSA sealed gun case. It actually worked quite well.

  1. I don’t know where that map is from but it is absolutely illegal to carry at Logan (Boston) airport in MA. The only two places there are laws against carrying in MA are Logan Airport and any school (college, high school, etc). There is no law against carrying in a court house (they all have metal detectors and security so they’ll ask you to leave it in the car, but it’s not against the law to bring it in the court).

    • The prohibition against concealed carry at Logan can be found in the Massport regulations. A first offense is a small fine.

    • In ND, airport terminals are considered “publicly owned or operated buildings”, and as such, firearms cannot be carried there.

      NDCC 62.1-02-05(1)

      This section was modified to reduce the number of GFZs last year, and I foresee more modifications as time goes on. Or, as some visitors say, “Welcome to North Dakota; please set your watch back 150 years.”

  2. And others (e.g., Arkansas) prohibit firearms in “sterile areas” — which they deem to be inside any passenger terminal.
    I’ve been to an airport in Arkansas. The word “sterile” never entered my mind.

  3. The map is a little black and white, while Florida airport carry has a bit of a gray area to it.

    At an airport like FLL where the gate area which is considered the passenger terminal is in the same building at baggage/ticketing carry is banned. But at airports that have a separate building with the gates, like TPA, carry is allowed until you step into the building with the gates. So at the baggage claim, and all of the locations there in that building (except the federal ones like CBP and TSA) are I am perfectly within my rights to carry.

    • I’d be interested in the basis for your conclusion, re: TPA. The secure areas at TPA are the Airside facilities (A, B, E, F) which are beyond the TSA checkpoints. The Main Terminal includes the 4 levels of shopping, ticketing, transportation and baggage claim. Just because the Main Terminal is apart from the secure areas doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire Main Terminal, including baggage claim, isn’t a prohibited area under the general meaning of “passenger terminal” in the FL Statute. There is no definition in the statute of “passenger terminal”. Since access to those areas isn’t controlled, just because you may have carried in that area of the airport and weren’t discovered doesn’t necessarily mean that it was within the law.

      • Granted none of this has been handled in the court of law, but the opinion of many gun lawyers is that because the law says “passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport.” So their opinion is that it has to be both a sterile area and a passenger terminal. Thus their opinion is that it covers only the building where the gates are.

        • Well, hopefully it’ll be cleared up if the legislation currently proposed gets passed. In addition to open carry and a number of other provisions, it includes a strike-out of the “passenger terminal” prohibition in the statute. Here’s hoping.

        • That’s the first I’ve ever heard of the “inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area” being a combined phrase,and I’ve studied this pretty closely over the last few years. Got any citations for those “many gun lawyers?”

  4. Florida Statutes 790.06 says this, in part regarding prohibited places: “The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft” Seems to not include baggage claim to me. What am I missing?

    • Baggage claim is part of the passenger terminal. The entirety of the publicly accessible building is part of the passenger terminal, and the sterile area is a subdivision of same. The non-publicly accessible areas outside of the official sterile area are usually considered sterile as well (think behind the locked doors behind the ticket counter), as many of them allow direct unrestricted movement into the sterile area.

  5. All the talking brain-drained heads on television today were shocked, positively shocked to learn that every airport in the nation is not a “sterile” zone regarding guns. Guns should not be allowed in baggage; period; guns should not be retrievable while in the airport, period; every building for air travelers should be completely enclosed in a secure cordon….and on and on.

    People….why are there large groups of passengers waiting to go through security lines? Because none of the airports were designed to deal with security as it is now configured. Why are there large groups of passengers waiting to go through security lines? Because the processing points are severe bottlenecks. Why are not all the airline terminals and lobbies not hardened security check points? Because you create a greater mass of people milling around waiting to go through the checkpoints (drive-by killings, anyone?). Why are airports not completely fenced and patrolled like high value military facilities? Because you create great masses of people stuck in vehicles waiting to process through security checkpoints (drive by grenade attacks, anyone?).

    Airport security creates worse security problems.

    • You’re right, but you’re missing a crucial point. Airport security as of now is configured for one thing and one thing only– To prevent planes from being used in acts of terror. It has little to do with securing the public at the ticket counter or in baggage. As you’ve already observed, more security in that direction only shifts the crowd somewhere else.

  6. I’ve carried at IND multiple times with no problems whatsoever.

    Also, it is fallacy to assume that everyone in the non-secure parts of the airport are coming from or going to flights. Families meet/pick up passengers at baggage claim. Often, I’ll be there for no reason other than to pick up a rental car.

  7. I know some people won’t like me saying this but…. I don’t see how it matters that much IRL.

    How many people get off the plane, grab their bag and immediately go to the rest room to load their gun and start CCWing? Virtually none.

    Now someone picking people up from the airport could be carrying but I see them as a rarity in the baggage claim area. Thinking back over the last number of times I’ve traveled I can think of maybe half a dozen people who actually parked and entered the airport and could have been legally carrying while doing so.

    I’m no fan of GFZ’s but I don’t see this making a real difference. In fact I don’t really see repealing GFZ’s as making a big difference in terror/mass shooting events. I’m all for getting rid of GFZ’s because they’re a pain in the ass and stupid but realistically it’s not like it’s going to turn a healthy percentage of mass shootings into situations where a CCW carrier drops the BG and ends the shooting. The numbers just aren’t on the good guy’s side there. I’d rather have the chance and all but statistically I don’t see it making a huge impact.

    • I’m in airports every week. At least in the Midwest (e.g. IND, STL, CVG, PIT), there is a non-trivial number of non-passengers in non-secure areas of every airport I go through. (That wasn’t true at e.g. BOS or EWR out east.)

      • I think it depends a lot on price of parking and overall layout. DIA and MIA both have few people who meet at the baggage area. DIA makes parking to do this extremely expensive and MIA makes you park far enough away that it’s way easier to have someone drive up to meet you as you leave.

        Regardless of the individual airport’s situation the overall (nationwide) numbers are not on the side of a CCW holder stopping a determined mass shooter.

    • I’ve met people at baggage claim plenty of times, and carried while I did so, because in Washington state it is legal to do so in the unsecured areas of an airport.

      The main reason is if I know the people are unfamiliar with the airport, and arranging transportation or communicating a pickup is going to be challenging. In those cases, it’s easiest for everyone to connect at baggage claim, and proceed from there.

      • Fair enough. All I’m saying is that I’ve traveled extensively over this country and I haven’t seen a lot of such behavior, especially since 9/11. It used to be very common. Now it’s much less so because it’s such a pain (they will tow that car if you step away for example).

        Regardless, the number of people who carry is low statistically speaking, now we have a smaller population and a situation that doesn’t present itself as a good place for effective use of a pistol anyway. Then we have to consider other factors like that a decent percentage of people who do carry will still shit themselves and run, even more carry only for personal/family defense and give no fucks about the folks in baggage claim that they’re not related to. Then there’s the question of the weapons on both sides of the equation and on and on the list goes.

        It all adds up to a sad story: even if it’s legal in 100% of what are now GFZ’s it’s not likely to make a big difference in the outcome of mass shootings and it’s sure as shit not going to deter the crazy fucks who commit such atrocities.

      • I actually make it a point of emphasis to carry when picking people up at the Seattle airport because it is both lawful and prudent. I generally try to carry when the whole trip allows lawful carry, but I really try to make it work whenever I’m going to be in crowded places (mall/movies/airport) or certain parts of downtown Seattle.

    • strych9,

      “How many people get off the plane, grab their bag and immediately go to the rest room to load their gun and start CCWing?”

      Me.

      At the same time, I agree that most people probably do not bother.

    • Lots of people get their bag and go to the restroom and into a stall where they can resume carry in private. They do not want to go outside unarmed.

      This killer went to the FBI and reported that the government was in his brain making him watch ISIS videos. Maybe it is true and is an obama anti-gun ploy to kill a few innocent people and get more evil gun laws?

      Adequate security means at least three armed guards on duty in every room all the time. These guards must not be standing together but must be able to see and defend each other.

      Whether it is a school or a baggage claim, hiring adequate security just isn’t in te budget. If a school has an armed guard, it is usually one guy near the front door. All the other doors are unguarded. At an airport, TSA nand airport police might have one person who will be the first victim or too far away to stop the action quickly.

      Armed teachers, and armed passengers and people picking up passengers serve as a deterrent and they may be able to provide security.

  8. Here in Las Vegas at McCarran airport you cannot CCW anywhere. You can open carry only in non-sterile areas. Therefore, once you retrieve your firearm at Baggage Claim you can then load it and OC it, no permit required in the state. Obviously with a CCW you can conceal upon exiting the terminal.
    The policies in FLL would not have prevented this as anyone who entered from the street and not an arriving passenger could’ve done the same exact thing.

  9. I believe the map is incorrect for Oklahoma:

    May not carry:

    Inside the secured area of any airport, however a person may carry any legal firearm into the terminal that is encased for shipment purposes and checked as baggage to be lawfully transported on an aircraft pursuant to airline and TSA regulations.

    The baggage claim is not in the secured area of airports.

  10. In KY carrying firearms is permitted in the areas of the airport not mandated by federal law, i.e., you just can’t go past the TSA checkpoint. Ticket counters, baggage claim, etc, all gtg.

  11. Articles like this bother me because NJ always shows Green. Yes NJ law allows the issue Concealed Carry Permits and allows open carry and carrying in the airport terminal for people with a permit.

    In practice NOBODY gets a concealed carry permit in NJ. Unless you are a very high ranking government official or have already been killed YOU WILL NOT GET A PERMIT. I believe there are roughly 1,200 permit holders in a state with a population of close to 9 million.

    NJ law does not, but could, allow for the most non-restrictive carry in the country but it wouldn’t matter because it is impossible for the ordinary citizen to get a permit.

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